US Ebola patient in critical condition

The first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States took a turn for the worse on Saturday, slipping from serious to critical condition in a Dallas hospital.

The case of Thomas Eric Duncan, who arrived from Liberia two weeks ago, has heightened concerns that the worst epidemic of Ebola on record could spread from West Africa where it began in March and has taken more than 3,400 lives.

Dr Thomas Frieden (below), director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said hospitals nationwide have become more vigilant in checking incoming patients for potential risks, particularly those who travelling recently from West Africa.

In the meantime, the CDC has narrowed down the number of individuals in Dallas at greatest risk of infection from Duncan, identifying nine people who had direct contact with him, including his girlfriend Louise Troh.

Another 40 were being monitored as potential contacts, out of a group of 114 people initially evaluated for exposure risks, though none from either group has shown symptoms, Frieden said.

Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

Duncan, now being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was sent home after his first visit to the emergency room, despite telling a nurse there that he had just been to Liberia.

The hospital said in a terse statement on Saturday that he was in critical condition, a worsening from the “serious condition” he was listed in the previous two days. The hospital declined to elaborate.

Ebola patient went to US to wed girlfriend, start new life 

Duncan (below) went to the US to marry his girlfriend, a local pastor told The Washington Post.

Screengrab from ABC News

He had plans to visit Troh and “start a new life in America” with her, according to an e-mail sent Friday to the congregation of Wilshire Baptist Church, where Troh is a member.

“Louise and other members of her extended family are in isolation now because of their contact with Mr Duncan.” - George Mason, who the church’s website identifies as a senior pastor.

“You can imagine how frightening this must be for all of them, mixed with the sadness of Mr. Duncan’s diagnosis.”

Troh and the others staying at the apartment were moved by Dallas County officials yesterday to an undisclosed location with better living conditions.

While none has shown symptoms of the disease, according to the officials, they must be monitored by medical professionals for 21 days from their first exposure to the virus.

“Where they were living was a terrible place. They deserved better than that” - Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

The family is getting toiletries, blankets and three hot meals a day, according to Lauren Mish, a spokeswoman with Dallas County said Saturday in an e-mail. She said no one else has developed symptoms.

In a text-message conversation, Josephus Weeks, who described himself as Duncan’s nephew, said the Ebola patient’s condition was worsening, and that he had become too weak to even talk on the telephone with relatives.

Duncan arrived in the US on Sept 20 and developed symptoms four days later. He went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas’s emergency room for treatment on Sept 25 and was sent home with antibiotics, before returning in an ambulance three days later.

Source: Reuters, Washington Post 

Related reports: 

US hunts contacts of seriously ill Ebola patient 

First case of Ebola confirmed in the United States

Ebola could potentially infect 1.4 million people by next year

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